Carpet cleaning tips

Mr. Pigeon’s efforts to find the best method to clean carpets and to find a reputable company to do the work led him down a path strewn with information both helpful and inconclusive.

Sherri Gahring, University of Minnesota extension specialist in textiles and clothing, sent a guide from a trade group, the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR).

The publication’s hints included a few fairly obvious reminders, such as checking firms with the Better Business Bureau, and some the Pigeon should have known, such as asking for references and calling them to see how happy previous clients were with the work. Not surprisingly, ASCR recommended hiring a firm belonging to a professional association with standards for competence and ethics.

The publication was strictly neutral on cleaning methods, saying that each has advantages and limitations, and “no single method is superior to all others.”

ASCR said “steam cleaning” is a misnomer for the hot-water extraction method, in which a “hot water cleaning solution is sprayed onto carpet and immediately extracted {along with the dissolved soil} by a wet vacuum.”

The Host method was described by Fritz Rench, chairman of Host/Racine Industries.

“It’s what we call dry extraction; it’s a very efficient wet cleaner,” Rench said. “It comes with saturated tiny sponges so you have control of the liquid, which means you have control of the soil.”

Rench said that while carpet looks horizontal, the pile is vertical, and “the trick with cleaning a vertical surface is loosening the dirt so you sponge it before it runs deeper into the pile … a carpet dries from the surface, and dirt wicks up.”

He said Host and hot water methods are “equal in cleaning power. There are pluses and minuses to both … either way, if the person {doing the work} knows his stuff, they end up with very happy customers.”

Industry tips

Gahring steered Mr. Pigeon to an industry source, the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) in Dalton, Ga., where Michael Hilton of the Department of Technical Services suggested asking the carpet manufacturer to recommend a cleaning method. He said there are five: hot-water extraction, dry absorbent compound (a term for systems such as Host, which is relatively dry), dry foam, rotary bonnet (the Chem-Dry method, for example) and rotary shampoo.

“I would hate to say that one is better than the other,” Hilton said. “We recommend all five.”

Hilton acknowledged that people can rent carpet-cleaning gear, but he said: “None of the manufacturers or CRI recommend any do-it-yourself method other than the dry compound. That is because consumers may have trouble following the instructions.”

Hilton said it’s not uncommon for people to overdo with chemicals.

“If the instructions say add 6 ounces, some people will think 12 ounces is twice as good,” he said.

Hilton recommended hiring cleaners who have formal training and said the Institute for Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) certifies carpet cleaners and their firms. Certified cleaning technicians must complete institute-approved courses, pass a written exam and maintain certification annually.

IICRC-certified firms must employ certified technicians, maintain appropriate licenses, carry adequate insurance, maintain a written complaint procedure and provide continuous education for technicians. Consumers may get names of IICRC-certified firms by calling (800) 835-4624.

Hilton also suggested:

– “You should not pay extra for traffic-lane conditioners or preconditioners. In the IICRC standards, in every single method, preconditioning is a part of the normal process.”

He said he would consider not including preconditioners in the advertised price a bait-and-switch tactic.

– Request proof of training or certification by the person doing the work.

– Request a written, detailed invoice for services to be performed.

– Confirm that the cleaning process is compatible with your Carpets of Dalton Flooring America.

– Find out about insurance or bonding in case of breakage or mistakes.

– If you have chemical sensitivities, find out what materials are used.

Mr. Pigeon’s friend with the Star Tribune’s Fixit said the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended keeping infants and young children off freshly shampooed carpets until they are completely dry. The cleaning chemicals are not suspect, but the shampooing process may be associated with an increased risk of Kawasaki syndrome, Fixit said.

“Until more is known about this mysterious disease and its correlation to freshly shampooed carpets,” Fixit said, “it would be best to keep your baby off the carpet until it has completely dried.”

Cleaning tips

A source who has been a carpet cleaner gave these tips on cleaning:

– Ask about the power of the vacuum; the more power, the shorter the drying time.

– Don’t pay for stain repellent where you don’t need it. Some firms will try hard to sell Scotchgard or other products, but sources said protecting rooms with dark carpet and little likelihood of spills wastes money.

– If rooms are sprayed with Scotchgard, don’t walk on them with socks until the carpet is dry; the socks will soak up the protective fluid.

– Circulate as much air as you can to dry the carpet.

Clean Those Windows and See Autumn

Naturally, plain water and newspaper are still the best, cheapest window cleaners – first using a garden hose to spray off the outside windows, followed by a sponge dampened with warm water to finish the job. Then use a wadded up newspaper to polish the cleaned glass.

For heavy, outside window-cleaning jobs, mix a solution of one quart of warm water, 1/4-cup plain ammonia or 1/4-cup distilled vinegar (don’t use both, they’ll neutralize each other), 1/2-cup denatured alcohol (if it’s cold enough outside to freeze the solution), a teaspoon of trisodium phosphate (Spic and Span) and one tablespoon of cornstarch. Don’t use sudsy ammonia, it will leave streaks.

Stir or shake until granules are dissolved and use a sponge to clean the top, bottom and middle of each pane. Rinse with a garden hose and polish with newspaper. Or, if you prefer the high-tech method, put the solution in a spray bottle to apply it to the glass, following up with a garden hose.

Window cleaning tips – Pick an overcast, cool day, or a time when the sun is not shining directly on the windows, to help prevent streaking. Direct sun causes the cleaning solution to evaporate before it can be removed with your equipment.

If practical, vacuum the window frames with the brush attachment to remove any grit, spider webs, dead bugs, etc. If windows have excess paint on the panes, apply hot vinegar on a sponge to the paint and remove the softened paint with a single-edge razor scraping tool.

Start at the top of the window and work your way down. If there are a lot of windows, complete the top horizontal row, then the next one down and the next and the next, etc.

To help keep track of which side of the pane the streaks are on, wipe the outside using vertical strokes and the inside using horizontal strokes. Then, when you see streaks, you can tell, by their alignments, which sides of the glass they’re on.

If you live in a two-story house, consider hiring a professional cleaning firm Jan-Pro Englewood to do the work.

If you do second story work yourself, don’t take your life in your hands by sitting on the window sill with your body outside the window! Instead, raise and lower both top and bottom sashes so you can reach the outside from inside the room. Most modern storm windows are designed so they can be removed from inside the frames – do so and clean your windows in the bathtub!

If you have a big job and tall windows, invest in a pole mounted squeegee. Buy one with a blade just a little longer than the panes are wide and use a hacksaw to cut the squeegee the exact width of the panes. If you have to reach second floor windows from outside, buy a telescoping paint-roller pole and install the squeegee on the end of it. To properly use a squeegee, wet the pane lightly with cleaning solution and then take a damp sponge to wipe the squeegee blade, so it will glide smoothly over the pane, instead of skipping. Tilt the squeegee at a 45-degree angle to the glass and pull it from left to right (right point of squeegee into the upper left corner of the pane) horizontally across the top of the pane. Wipe the blade with a damp sponge and make another pass, just below the first one, slightly overlapping the bottom of the first pass. Repeat this until you’re satisfied with the job, wiping the blade after each pass.

Most lumber supply stores sell high-pressure sprayers which attach to the end of your garden hose and have reservoirs to hold cleaning solutions. They can be used to first spray a soap solution and then plain water to rinse it off.

Gum on carpet a sticky situation

My toddler got gum on the carpeting in my living room. What is the best way to remove it?

A: The first step is to put a piece of ice in a plastic bag on the gum until it has hardened. Then gently scrape off as much of the gum as possible with the dull edge of a knife.

To remove the remaining stain, use dry-cleaning solvent, found in most grocery stores; be sure to follow the package directions exactly.

Q: I spilled a mixture of bleach and disinfectant on my carpet. How can I restore the color?

A: Chlorine bleach removes color permanently. Unfortunately, short of dyeing the spot professionally, there isn’t anything you can do. to restore the color. You might use a carpet scrap of carpet to patch the area.

Q: Rubber-backed carpet was glued to my bathroom floor. How do I dissolve the adhesive and clean the tile?

A: Use De-Solv-It or mineral spirits to remove the adhesive. Open a window and run a fan to ventilate the area. Then scrub tile with a solution of 1 cup mild detergent, 1/4 cup trisodum phosphate and 3 ounces household ammonia to 1 gallon water. Rinse with warm water and dry.

Q: I can’t get rid of depressions in the carpet left after moving furniture. I’ve tried vacuuming. What else can I do?

A: Brush the area with your fingertips so the mashed tufts stand up. Hold a steam iron 2 or 3 inches above the carpet and allow the steam to flow into the depression. Do not let the iron touch the carpet. After steaming, brush gently.

How can I remove pet stains from carpeting? If they can’t be removed, how can I replace areas of carpeting and be assured of matching colors in dye lots?

To remove pet stains: Apply a detergent solution ( 1/2 teaspoon mild detergent per pint of water) and blot. Then use an ammonia solution (1 tablespoon per cup of water) and blot. Follow with a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water (test on an inconspicuous place first since vinegar can remove some dyes). Blot, flush with water, and blot again. If the urine has soaked into the pad, nothing will remove the smell. You will need to go to Plan B – replacing the carpet, please, visit Viking Carpet One . If you are replacing small areas, carpeting in closets can be used for patches. If the areas are large, only the manufacturer can help with matching dye lots. Call in the professionals.

Most useful cleaning hints

Sink drain: To keep it sanitary and odor-free, pour in 1/2-cup baking soda and 1 cup white vinegar. After it foams, flush with hot water, then cold. Repeat once a month.

Kitchen counter tops: For stubborn stains, squeeze fresh lemon juice on the area and let soak for 15 to 30 minutes. Then sprinkle with baking soda and rub gently with a soft cloth. Rinse with water and dry.

Wood chopping blocks and plastic cutting boards: To disinfect, mix a solution of 2 to 3 tablespoons bleach to 1 quart of water and pour it over the wood. Wait a few minutes before rinsing well.

Stale carpet smell: Using a flour sifter, sprinkle the carpet with baking soda. Leave for 30 minutes, then vacuum. If you want to buy a new carpet, please, visit

Miniblinds: Slip a terry sock over your hand, spray it with all-purpose cleaner and dust.

Chandelier: For sparkle without drips, quick-clean the crystals with pre-moistened, alcohol-based towelettes.

Fiberglass tub: Any inexpensive hair shampoo makes a great, low-cost cleaner. Scrub away using an old stocking rolled into a ball as a cleaning pad.

Toilet: As a cleaning shortcut, drop in a few denture tablets and let them fizz. Swish with toilet brush.

Room freshener: Before you vacuum, add a handful of whole cloves or potpourri, or a sprinkle of ground cinnamon or nutmeg, to the vacuum cleaner bag.

Musty closets: Keep a bowl of activated charcoal in the closet to absorb the moisture that creates the odor.

Lamp shades: Dust with a soft, clean paintbrush.

Silk flowers: Place flower-end first into a paper or plastic bag filled with 1/4-cup salt and shake a few times.

The best and cheapest way to dry windows you’ve just washed is with crumpled newspaper. The printer’s ink makes the glass sparkle.

Quick, easy ways to clean carpets

Some handy tips on how to deal with common household problems with your carpets: Red Wine Spills

Treat a red wine spill with ordinary shaving cream from an aerosol can. Then, sponge off the area with cold water.

Or cover the area of the stain with a liberal amount of salt or baking soda. Leave until the stain is completely absorbed, then vacuum.

Or remove the stain with club soda.

Or remove the stain with white wine.

Slipping. Skidding carpets can be stopped in their tracks by applying nonskid bathroom appliques to the bottoms. Alternatively, place a few strips of double-faced carpet tape under the corners, or sew or glue rubber jar rings on to the bottom, click for carpet.

Fraying. To repair a rug with frayed edges, snip off the loose threads and dab some transparent glue along the entire edge. When the glue dries, it won’t be noticeable.

Burn marks. Shave off some carpet fuzz and roll into the shape of the burn. Apply clear glue to the area of the burn and then press on the fuzz ”patch.” Cover the area with a piece of clean tissue and place a heavy book on top. This will cause the glue to dry slowly and you’ll get the best results.

It’s time to plan for cleaning

Use an all-purpose liquid cleaner, which costs less and cleans better than most special-purpose cleaners.

Spray cleaners are usually expensive. You pay extra for the packaging and convenience. If you want convenience, choose a pump spray product that offers less expensive refill bottles. Liquid cleaners are usually more expensive to use then powders. Pay attention to dilution recommendations to figure true cost per use.

The presence of ammonia or pine oil in a product doesn’t mean it will clean better. These chemicals can create fumes that could reach unhealthy levels of concentration in small enclosed spaces. They also can be harsh on painted surfaces.

While ordinary household chlorine bleach alone is not a good cleaner, it kills mildew and other molds much less expensively and often more effectively than specialized bathroom cleaners. Still, make sure you thoroughly rinse surfaces cleaned with bleach to avoid marring them. Chlorine bleach should not be mixed with other cleaning products. Bleach reacts with ammonia and other alkaline chemicals to produce noxious gases. Bleach mixed with acids instantly makes toxic chlorine gas. Use cleaners and bleach separately.

Read labels, and select less toxic products. Avoid solvents when you can. They emit hazardous organic gases and should not be stored indoors. Especially try to avoid products containing methylene chloride, benzene and formaldehyde.

Some of the cleaning and disinfecting may be best done by professionals – Jan-Pro Cleaning Systems of Southern CT .

Many common cleaners can mar aluminum, brass, chrome and other surfaces if left on too long. Check labels, and follow directions carefully. More doesn’t mean better.

Clean apartment when moving and save deposit money

It’s moving day. You pack the last box in the truck and survey your empty apartment – the dusty blinds, dirty linoleum, and empty boxes and garbage strewn across the floor. The thought crosses your mind that you should clean more thoroughly, but instead you shrug your shoulders and leave.

Three weeks later you receive a letter from your landlord, notifying you that he or she is keeping $200 of your security deposit for cleaning. You are outraged – $200 seems an exorbitant sum to charge for cleaning. Besides, you didn’t leave the apartment that dirty.

Rental experts say the most common security deposit deduction is for cleaning and that these deductions typically cost tenants $100 to $200.

Defending your cleaning

In some states, including Arizona, landlords are allowed to collect non-refundable cleaning deposits. If you have a landlord who has taken advantage of such a law, leaving your apartment a mess is OK, since you’ve already paid the $75 or so for your landlord to clean when you’re gone.

But if your landlord doesn’t collect a cleaning fee, you’ll want to leave your apartment as clean as it was the day you moved in. If you don’t, you could lose part of your security deposit.

In order to avoid a dispute with your landlord over cleaning, document the fact that you’ve cleaned thoroughly.

Cleaning tips

Doing the cleaning yourself may seem easy enough, but there are areas that are commonly overlooked by amateur cleaners. Here is a list of frequently forgotten spots:

Wash cabinet fronts.

Shower, sink and toilet – Clean with mildew stain remover. Don’t leave the shower or sink wet. Also remember to clean inside the crevices of the shower door frame and wipe down the body of the toilet.

Mirrors – Be sure to use an anti-streaking glass cleaner.

Floors – Vacuum and sweep the entire apartment (the closets and cabinets, too).

Walls – Dust and clean the drapes, curtains or blinds.

Hidden areas – Dust the tops of door frames and molding.

Before you leave, ask your landlord if you should shampoo the rugs. If they have stains, you will want to hire a professional rug cleaner in Las Vegas or rent a rug-cleaning machine,  especially if you have grease stains.